Serving Others

“Service Before Self”, is one of the core values of the US Air Force. I see this posted in just about every military installation that I’m on, regardless of the branch. We all serve someone at some point in our day and usually throughout our lives. As parents, we serve our kids, as spouses we serve our mate and as employees we serve customers – either internal or external to the company. Even leaders have people that they serve. A leader should be someone who is serving those that follow them; the concept of servant leadership. By making their followers stronger, servant leaders build up their staff and work to make them successful. There are people in leadership positions who wrongfully believe that since they are in this place of “power” that people should be serving them. A true leader is more concerned about how they can support and help those that follow them.

Ken Blanchard has written extensively about servant leadership and his research on leadership. Unfortunately, we see people every day who are simply serving themselves. The millennium generation grew up watching the greed of Wall Street and “leaders” serving their own interests. If anyone else benefited, well, that was just extra. So, who are you serving? I would suggest putting your focus on others and see what comes of it. I have benefited from a number of mentors in my life and I have also played that role for others. It is immensely satisfying and rewarding to help others when there is nothing to be gained.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

St. Paul wrote a lot about serving others in his letters, focusing much of his attention on humility. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds them to be humble proclaiming “I came to you in weakness and fear”, he was asking them to serve others with humility too. Using Jesus as our example, ask yourself, how did He show humility for us? The first thing that comes to my mind is the washing of His disciple’s feet at the last supper. The leader of the group, the leader of the heavens washed feet. Jesus was serving us!

The Son of God and God Himself was serving us so that we would have eternal life. God has prepared the good works for us. He has set the course, put people in our lives and us in the lives of others so that we could execute the plan He has for us. God has prepared these good works for us in advance; they aren’t chance but these opportunities are given to us to do God’s work. We are not put here to do our works or to be boastful. My apologies to the Air Force but “Service Before Self” really came from God. It was demonstrated to us by Jesus and now we must humble ourselves to serve others, just as God planned.

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What Do You Want From Me?

“What do you want from me?” A phrase often uttered in anger between two people in a relationship. Adam Lambert used this phrase as lyrics for a song by same title in 2010. When I taught leadership classes or coached a new supervisor, I often talked about setting expectations between the supervisor and the employees. Doing this often prevented disappointment and allowed people to function without constant direction. Telling people what you expect of them is often the best way to meet your shared goals. My wife often says “I can’t your mind!” This is another form of missed expectations. I’ve written before about what we call the “order model” in emergency communications. Instead of just saying “copy” when given an order over the radio, the model requires that the message be repeated back to the sender to ensure complete understanding. It works well in high stress situations.

The problem with low stress communications, the ones we have 99% of the time in our lives, is that it often misses the mark. We spent more than a half an hour with a designer this weekend before Lisa and I realized what she was actually talking about. We both assumed we knew and when we started asking questions, the designer got confused because we weren’t all on the same page. The order model would have helped but it sure would make for a long conversation. The bottom line is that we all need to work on explaining what we want or what we need, no matter what role we are playing in our lives – spouse, child, co-worker, supervisor, employee, neighbor, etc. If you find yourself wanting to ask someone, “what do you want from me?” remember that you are half to blame for not knowing the answer. Be humble, be courteous and be direct in your exchange of needs. The results will be peaceful.

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

When I read the Old Testament I am amazed by how simply things were being explained to God’s children. It’s easy to give advice to the characters of a story when you know how the story ends. We know that God sent His Son to die for our sins and that we have been forgiven of our sins because of God’s grace. The readers of Micah did not. They ask, “What does the Lord require of me?” We all know the answer to that question – now. The readers at the time had no idea. I could close here by saying, “We know what the Lord requires, faith in Jesus as our Savior.” Too easy, right?

The wisdom that follows the question in Micah is what we should be concentrating on. “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God”. Now there is some good advice! In the U.S. we hear little about mercy these days, we hear little about humility and we rarely see people acting justly. The national polls continue to show that as a nation, we remain divided in ideologies and things like humility and mercy are left for the liberals. I’m not taking shots at the left or the right in the U.S. political debate; I’m simply saying that the words of Micah should be very meaningful right now as way forward in our quest of unity and healing. My personal expectation as a citizen is that we do all three – always. Since I can’t change the national conversation, I guess that I’ll start with my circle of influence. How about you?

Where did the customer service go?

Whether we are in customer service, accounting, marketing or leadership positions, we are always serving a customer of some sort. Sometimes they are internal customers and sometimes they are the paying customers; either way, they can be demanding. Where has the good customer service gone? St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a great reminder of how we should act toward each other – customers or not. The old adage of the “customer is always right” seems to have gone away with the full-service gas station. People in the customer service business these days seem to be bothered with us “customers” and our needs.

On the flip side, have you started treating those serving you differently? If you are in a leadership position, do you think that your employees are there to serve you? How do you react when they need something or some help? Leaders must learn to deal with all types of people who have all types of needs. The management practice of situational leadership applies today more than at any other time. The principle is that every situation (or person) requires a different approach than you used the last time or perhaps will use the next time. It requires patience, humility and gentleness. We have four different generations in the workplace today and each needs its own approach. One thing that doesn’t change, patience and humility will go along way toward delivering great service.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

This verse is one of God’s directions for us. He teaches us, through St. Paul, how we should treat and live with each other. I haven’t found a person who enjoys the company of someone who isn’t humble and treats people poorly. We tend to tolerate these people in our lives because we have to, not because we want to. We are taught to love all of God’s creatures but some people make that very hard! Remain patient and tolerant, God is teaching you something. How do you act toward others? Are you the person that people merely tolerate? Are you gentle and humble with those who serve you? Take time to examine yourself and apply the direction that God is giving us.

Jesus demonstrated these attributes in His life. When the Disciples couldn’t understand the lessons Jesus was teaching, He never gave up. When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with trick questions, He loved them anyway and was gentle with them. Even on the cross, Jesus asked for mercy on those that were crucifying Him. I often say that if people are going to quote from the bible that they should be reading the whole thing and not just a few selected verses that make their point. In order for us to live as St. Paul suggests, we need to be reminded of God’s patience with us and we can do that by reading God’s word.

Taking Ourselves Too Seriously

A few weeks ago I worked with the U.S. Army conducting training for our Homeland Response Forces and had the opportunity to discuss the temperament of General Officers with a couple of junior officers. We started talking about people who were genuine and approachable. One of these officers told a story about a retired 3 star General who lives in the same area that he does. This retired General drives his old pick up truck around town, wears blue jeans and spends his time working his farmland. This Captain also spoke about a General that he once worked for who would take off his rank insignia after his “official duties” and visit with the soldiers, play cards and eat with them when he was in Afghanistan and Iraq; rank was not important to him.

Humility is defined as a modest or low view of one’s own importance and is a very unusual trait to find in people these days. An entire generation of people has been raised in an era in which “everyone gets a trophy” and they never learned about being humbled by a loss because everyone was equal. Being humble is something that we all can use a little more of and put into practice a little more often. We should strive to care more about others than we do ourselves.

“Therefore, whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:4

Being humble isn’t limited to those in leadership positions; it applies to all of us. When we start thinking that we are better than our neighbors or our co-workers, we have veered off track. Matthew is, of course, quoting Jesus here who is speaking to His disciples and follows this verse with “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” Jesus is telling us not to take ourselves too seriously and to be humble. Small children have do not developed the “skill” of being boastful or full of themselves until later in their development. Children are compassionate, listen to their parents, don’t think or speak poorly of others and usually don’t knowingly sin. We can learn a lot from them.

Jesus is telling us that we are not the most important thing in this world – to stop being so full of ourselves that we think we are the center of attention. We should humble ourselves, set our focus on God and accept more people rather than judging them. When we receive the most humble among, we receive Jesus. It isn’t a competition for things and accomplishments; it’s about being good children of God. Humility doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of what you’ve done but it does mean that what you’ve done doesn’t define you. No one will care what you do here on earth if all you do is serve your own needs. God wants us to serve each other and in order to do that, we must humble ourselves.

I’ve got mine…

Look what I did! I am so awesome! Have you heard or even said these words? I once saw a plaque that read, “I know I’m not perfect but I’m so close that it scares me”. We often hear people expressing their confidence in very strong ways. What about the people who lack that type of self-confidence? Is there something wrong with them? Who wouldn’t be proud of what they’ve done? I would suggest that it may not be the lack of confidence or them having no pride in their accomplishments but it may be that they are simply too humble to talk about themselves. Humility is a God given talent and should be practiced but in today’s world it is seen as a sign of weakness. The opposite of humility is boasting and those people are even harder to deal with. We all know someone who is always right and identifies how others have “screwed up” without ever considering their own role in the situation. They make everyone around them miserable because all they do is point how they have done no wrong. Related to this is the widening of the income gap and the growing, “I’ve got mine, too bad about yours” mentality. I’ve heard several people this week complain about school taxes because they don’t have any kids in the system so why should they pay school property taxes. They got their kids through school with the help of others but don’t think that they should take their turn. This selfish mentality is driving our world apart; we’ve forgotten about caring for each other. We need to keep watch over each other, we’re all we’ve got. I’ve got a picture frame on my desk that says, “It won’t matter what my bank balance was, the size house I lived in, or the type of car that I drove but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” If we swap “life of a child” and make it “the life of another human being” and get a little closer to God’s will. Go make a difference in someone’s life.

8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whose sake I have lost all things.9…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. Philippians 3:8-9

Paul had everything in his life that he could want. He was considered a great man and was feared by many. He was a righteous man under the law as a Pharisee; he told others what to do and people obeyed him. Paul gave up everything (even his name) to follow Jesus when he came face to face with Him. Jesus showed him the way to everlasting life and he spent years in prison writing and telling of the good news. He’d lost everything and yet was grateful for his faith in Jesus Christ. He realized that he was nothing without faith in Jesus and the righteousness that comes from God. Paul was humble, steadfast in his faith, shared the good news whenever he could, encouraged others with his letters and remained focused on what God wanted him to do. The power, the social status, the envy and the confidence that he had before, he considered a loss now that he has the knowledge of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Everything that we have is lost too, if we don’t have the same faith in our savior Jesus Christ. Share the good news about having eternal life through faith in Him and all that God has done for you. You will make a difference in the life of another human being.

Attitude? Who me?

There are a number of things that make us who we are; attitude, education, experiences, families, goals, faith and the list goes on. Last week I talked about suffering and how that affects us too. I love to people watch whenever we go out; it’s a huge source of entertainment. I keep saying that people are strange creatures and the human psyche never fails to amaze me. The way we react to things or the way that we think is always interesting. I started to wonder about myself and if I’m just as crazy as everyone else – the answer is yes. I find that I’m really flexible and diplomatic with a significant segment of the people that I encounter everyday. Then, I become this stubborn, crabby old man on the flip side. I try to be consistent and predictable so people don’t have to guess which “Bill” is showing up. There are so many things that affect my attitude or outlook on the issues in my life. We all juggle a number of roles – spouse, boss, worker, leader, follower, friend, brother or sister, neighbor, etc. Knowing how to respond can be the difference between being the hero or the zero. I often try to be more humble than not and the peacekeeper rather the pot stirrer. I’m constantly searching for the middle of the road. “Fair” comes out of my mouth often. As I prepared to write this, I found myself doing a personal inventory of sorts. I wondered how all of these traits come across when someone watches me. I know I’m just as crazy as the next guy, filled with idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. I would encourage you to take some time to consider your attitude about life and how others perceive you. Do you like what you see? What can you do to change it? What should you keep doing? What do you want to achieve?

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

Wow! No pressure here – your attitude should be same as Jesus’. We often tell our kids that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time and this tall order is no different. In His usual wisdom, God has given us the directions on how to that as well. He gave us a four-step process to keep our attitudes in check.1) Do not consider yourself equal to God or even pretend to understand why He does the things that He does. It is too big to grasp. We must accept that He is doing what is in our best interests and in His own time. 2) Be a servant. Jesus was the ultimate servant and led others through His willingness to serve. He was a lowly carpenter who made things for other people. You can’t underestimate the power of servitude, so serve others with pride. 3) Do not take yourself too seriously. Humility is a strong character trait that is often confused with being shy. Being humble means that you’d be willing to wash the feet of someone else, nothing is too small of a job. You are not better than anyone else. 4) Jesus is your savior. Your salvation is found in Him and not through anything that you can do. You don’t have to worry about never being good enough or never doing enough; God took care of that for you. Jesus was exalted to the highest place after cleansing us from all sin. You can live your life of faith confident in your salvation and life everlasting. If that doesn’t give you a positive attitude, I can’t imagine what will.

Service Before Self

“Service Before Self”, is one of the core values of the US Air Force. We all serve someone at some point in our day and usually throughout our lives. As parents, we serve our kids, as spouses we serve our mate and as employees we serve customers – either internal or external to the company. Even leaders have people that they serve. A leader should be someone who is serving those that follow them; the concept of servant leadership. By making their followers stronger, servant leaders build up their staff and work to make them successful. There are people in leadership positions who wrongfully believe that since they are in this place of “power” that people should be serving them. A true leader is more concerned about how they can support and help those that follow them. Ken Blanchard writes extensively about servant leadership and his research on leadership. We all see many people today who are simply serving themselves. The millennium generation grew up watching the greed of Wall Street and “leaders” serving their own interests. If anyone else benefited, well, that was just extra. So, who are you serving? I would suggest putting your focus on others and see what comes of it. I have benefited from a number of mentors in my life and I have also played that role for others. It is immensely satisfying and rewarding to help others when there is nothing to be gained.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

St. Paul wrote a lot about serving others in his letters, focusing much of his attention on humility. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds them to be humble proclaiming “I came to you in weakness and fear”, he was asking them to serve others with humility too. Using Jesus as our example, ask yourself, how did He show humility for us? The first thing that comes to my mind is the washing of His disciple’s feet at the last supper. The leader of the group, the leader of the heavens washed feet. Jesus was serving us! The Son of God and God Himself was serving us so that we would have eternal life. God has prepared the good works for us. He has set the course, put people in our lives and us in the lives of others so that we could execute the plan He has for us. God has prepared these good works for us in advance; they aren’t chance but these opportunities are given to us to do God’s work. We are not put here to do our works or to be boastful. My apologies to the Air Force but “Service Before Self” really came from God, was demonstrated to us by Jesus and now we must humble ourselves to serve others, just as God planned.

 

Leading with Thankfulness

Thanksgiving was last week and I had another devotion on thankfulness in my heart to share. As leaders we are in the position to influence the lives of those that work for us, those we work with and occasionally, those who we work for, especially if you are in middle management. We are so busy trying to juggle all of our priorities that sometimes we forget to say “thank you”. We lead people only because they choose to follow us. If they are following us because they have to, well, we are just managing them. True leaders are influencing people’s lives each day by what they say and do. If the people who work for you are truly following, they will alter their perceptions, attitudes, knowledge and behaviors all because of you. Maybe you never realized it but you have a lot of power over your employees. For some people, that power goes right to their heads. Last week I suggested that you pick someone who makes your life just a little easier and say thank you to them. I’d like to suggest that you say thanks to the team that follows you. Tell them about the great work they do and how it impacts your business, then tell your coworkers how great it is to work with them and what they do to support you and then thank your boss for what he or she does for you personally and how you’ve grown from your experience working for them. Even if your boss is horrible, you are still learning something. Don’t let this Thanksgiving time slip away without thanking those that make your workdays a little more bearable. As a leader, it’s important for your people to know that you notice and that you care.

8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 9Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.1 Chronicles 16:8-9

We are taught that when we pray, we should give thanks to God for all that he’s done for us. Even if you are struggling right now, God is with you making you stronger. We often pray when we are worried or if we need something but how often do we pray just to give thanks? We see people accepting awards or scoring points in a sporting event point to the heavens as if to say “thanks to you God”. We don’t have to wait until we win an award or score a touchdown; everyday is reason to celebrate. Today’s verse reminds us to tell others what God has done for us: “tell of all his wonderful acts.” The greatest thing that God has done for us is to send us a savior, someone to intercede on our behalf with God so that our sins are forgiven. Jesus Christ taught us how to live, how to treat each other and how to be saved from ourselves. He is a great leader and deserves our thanks. Today, tell God how thankful you are for everything in your life and ask for the courage to spread to the word.